What's a Memoir?
Want a study guide too?
Memoir. n. A book in which you write down all your thoughts and memories so that millions of randos can get to know far more about you and your family than your family is probably comfortable with.
Memoirs are works of literary nonfiction.
They have to be about the writer’s real experiences but sound and feel like literature.
In a memoir, the writer gets to be the main character. Talk about your ego trip.
Yep, the memoirist has free reign to dwell on his or her thoughts, feelings, and reflections.
It’s the writer’s party, and he’ll cry if he wants to.
And then he’ll describe his crying in vivid detail.
Memoirs are subjective, so memoir writers even get to play fast-and-loose with minor
In a memoir, the writer’s version of the truth always wins.
So… memoirists are usually better-looking on the page than in real life.
The writer has to choose a theme or purpose and decide which memories to include and which
details to invent…
…and the pacing needs to be just right so readers can relive the moments with the characters.
Memoirists have to stir enough background information into the story for readers to
understand the context and the events…
… but they also have to leave out a lot of information…
… which means resisting the urge to describe every Thanksgiving dinner Grandma ever made—no
matter how awesome the stuffing was. Readers should be able to imagine the setting…
…and the relationships between characters. Oh, and by the way, when characters talk to
each other in memoirs, they don’t speak formally…
…the dialogue is written the way real people would actually talk.
So put down the red pen and stop worrying so much about all the improper grammar.
Once all is said and done, the memoirist gets to decide how to leave the readers...
…which could even mean abandoning them to show that life isn’t fair.
Harsh, yeah. But, in a well-written memoir…
…readers should learn something about life, with a capital-L.
Not just about the writer’s brief stay on planet Earth.
So, what’s a memoir?
A memoir is blood, sweat, tears, and ink.
You provide the blood, sweat and tears. Ink sold separately.